New recipe and mid-summer garden update

My friend Lauren is an accomplished and adventurous cook, and after trying the dal she made, I was emboldened to try it myself. It’s a very easy recipe from Oh She Glows, it just required a few ingredients we don’t regularly have in the pantry. I used broccoli, sweet potato, and tofu for the veggies, and left out the minced onion and the garnish (lime juice and cilantro).

IMG_20180714_132631As for the garden…I can’t believe I haven’t updated here since Memorial Day weekend! Since then, the calibrochoa has sprawled beautifully. Next spring, I’ll be a little more intentional with my annuals; I loved last year’s combination of Icelandic poppies, calibrochoa, verbena, and lobelia – maybe with some snapdragons too. (The marigolds are bright and healthy but don’t seem to be doing much to keep the critters away.)

IMG_20180629_082506The strawberries came and went – we had the last of them in early July. Next year perhaps I’ll make room for them in my raised bed; I think they might have been crowded in the hanging baskets, and definitely in the (alleged) strawberry pot. The raspberries came in nicely – I was so excited to have any! Only a few canes produced but they are so delicious. The blueberries are ripening too, and I expect the first ones will be ready later this month and into August.


IMG_20180620_083441The Wando shelling peas are the surprise hit of the summer – everyone loved them, even the toddler! I’ll do more of these next year, and prioritize them a bit more. They all came in over the course of a week or two, but they were great. I’m not sure what happened with the sweet peas, but I’ll try them again next year too. (And maybe nasturtiums in the hanging baskets, instead of the strawberries.)

Of the six pumpkin plants I put in the ground, four seem to have disappeared entirely and two are thriving hugely, with plenty of big yellow flowers. No sign of any actual pumpkins yet.


IMG_20180711_162837The sunflowers indeed disliked being transplanted (as it said on the packet); I don’t think I’ll bother with them again next year. The wildflowers, however, have just started popping in the last week or two, and it’s a pretty mix. More wildflowers next year!

The tomato plants are enormous – the raised bed is like a jungle. I’ve harvested the basil in there twice already, and now I think it’s crowded out. Next year I’ll plant it around the edges instead of between the rows of tomatoes, and probably should plant fewer tomato plants as well. I’ve talked with a neighbor about sharing seeds next spring, which should help. I find it so difficult to thin the plants when I’m supposed to! Anyway, the tomatoes are still mostly green now, but there are going to be LOTS…if we can keep the squirrels away.



Above, clockwise from top left: daylily (they were here when we moved in), rose campion (transplanted from my mom’s place), calla lily (previously mis-identified as lily of the valley; it spent the winter in the basement); new balloon flower; filling the watering can at the rain barrel.



Filed under food, gardening, recipes, summer

What we’ve read so far, 2 years 9 months

Early readersWe’ve delved into early readers with Little Bear and Frog and Toad, but we are still reading picture books by the ton. Just this evening as I was working in the children’s department at the library, I got to have a valuable conversation with the mother of two young boys. Her older one was already reading by himself, but “still likes to be read to.” I said, “That is great! You should read to him as long as he likes it.”

I went on to explain that picture books often have a much more complex vocabulary than early readers, because the authors expect that picture books will be read aloud by a fluent reader (adult or otherwise) to a child. Young children can comprehend a great deal, but when they are just beginning to read, they need smaller, easier words, and shorter, less complex sentences. Thus, we have early readers – but, it is still wonderful to be read to, whether that’s picture books or beginning chapter books or both. Plus, reading together creates a warm, comforting atmosphere and positive associations with books and reading.

It’s also important for kids to see their parents and role models reading, so think about family reading time, where everyone reads their own book for a while. (E-books are great, but smartphones and other devices are opaque; you could be doing anything on there, and whoever you’re with won’t know if you’re reading a book or playing a game. For family reading time, read a print book, magazine, or newspaper if you can.)

And don’t forget (or look down on) graphic novels! Visual literacy is an important skill, one that young readers start developing with picture books and continue to develop with comics and graphic novels. Speaking of picture books, here are a few we have been reading and enjoying lately:Cover image, Julian is a Mermaid

  • Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • Tidy by Emily Gravett
  • This Is How We Do It, Matt Lamothe
  • Museum ABC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Max and Bird by Ed Vere

And if you’re looking for especially good read-aloud books, I wrote about my first summer storytime on my other blog. I got to read some of my favorite books and it was a great success! What have you been reading lately?

Kid and dad reading in library


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You’ve already won me over

Jagged Little Pill program

It’s unusual that I do much outside of my established home/work/kid grooves, but in the last week of June I went to the American Repertory Theater to see Jagged Little Pill and the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion (formerly Harbor Lights – I know how New Englanders like to stick with the original names) to see the Barenaked Ladies.

The ’90s are back!

Jagged Little Pill was great. I never owned the album, but I knew most of the songs from the radio, and have a (re)new(ed) appreciation for them now; it was impressive the way they were able to write a story using every song on the album, and the songs worked with the different actors’ voices. The cast was incredibly diverse and it was an amazing performance; despite being two hours and 40 minutes (with intermission), it didn’t feel long at all.

Lauren Patten as Jo in Jagged Little Pill (from the A.R.T. site)

Jagged Little Pill at the American Repertory Theater

BNL’s set was definitely fun and satisfying. With thirty (30!) years of music, though, I wish there’d been a little less patter and more songs (i.e. less talk, more rock). But some of it was funny (Before “Gonna Walk”: “It’s in the key of ‘eh'”; “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome…the accordion!”) And they played a lot of favorites from a range of albums, not all radio hits. I was surprised to hear “Enid,” and a little sad not to hear “Call and Answer,” but overall it was an incredibly fun evening – and public transit cooperated with smooth connections on the way there and back, and what more can you ask for, really.

BNL at Blue Hills, July 1, 2018

Barenaked Ladies at Blue Hills, July 1, 2018


  1. Odds Are (Grinning Streak)
  2. Duct Tape Heart (Silverball)
  3. Pinch Me (Maroon)
  4. Bringing It Home (Fake Nudes)
  5. Give It Back to You (Grinning Streak)
  6. 20/20 Hindsight (Fake Nudes)
  7. Brian Wilson (Gordon)
  8. Canada Dry (Fake Nudes)
  9. Gonna Walk (Grinning Streak)
  10. The Township of King (Fake Nudes)
  11. Alternative Girlfriend (Maybe You Should Drive)
  12. Enid (Gordon)
  13. We Took the Night (Fake Nudes)
  14. Lookin’ Up (Fake Nudes)
  15. Theme from The Big Bang Theory
  16. One Week (Stunt)
  17. If I Had $1000000 (Gordon)
  18. Let It Be (Beatles cover)
  19. Another One Bites the Dust (Queen cover)
  20. Blister in the Sun (Violent Femmes cover)
  21. The Old Apartment (Born On A Pirate Ship)
  22. Light Up My Room (Stunt)

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What we’ve read so far, 2 years 8 months

This month we’ve been getting out several books by a few authors. I don’t remember having a lot of awareness, when I was really little, that authors and illustrators created books, and that if I liked one of theirs, I should search out the others – not until grade school at least.

But with this awareness, I can choose batches of books to bring home and we can enjoy the creations of Molly Idle, Il Sung Na, Kaya Doi, Anna Dewdney, Greg Foley, Zachariah Ohora, and Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak.

Pictured above:
Chirri & Chirra by Kaya Doi
Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah Ohora
Thank You Bear by Greg Foley
Little Bear’s Visit by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Flora & the Flamingo by Molly Idle
Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney
The Opposite Zoo by Il Sung Na

Now that she has the patience, attention, and interest to sit through some of the longer books, we might try Frog & Toad too – some friends have been telling us about it for ages. I hadn’t picked it up yet because I remember being dead bored by the Wind in the Willows as a kid, but it turns out that they are two separate things and I only conflated them in my mind. Sorry, Arthur Lobel! And anyway – every book its reader, every reader their book.


Signed up for summer reading at the library!

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Early summer cooking

Deviled eggs: The America’s Test Kitchen recipe for hard-boiled eggs has never failed me. For the fillings, I used the egg yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and some chopped fresh rosemary, with a little paprika on top. I would’ve used soy sauce but we were out.

Radish top pesto: Got some radishes at the farmers’ market and made the greens into pesto, along with a couple of handfuls of basil from the garden, a clove of garlic, olive oil, walnuts, and parmesan cheese. (Ate the radishes themselves on bread with butter.)

Veggie dal: a friend made this (from Oh She Glows) and I can’t wait to try it out at home. It was surprisingly mild – I think she went easy on us, as we are not spice-loving people – and delicious over quinoa.

Couscous with a fried egg on top: still enjoying this “chef’s snack” when it’s hot out and I need to throw a meal together quickly.

IMG_20180619_173443Strawberry shortcake: We got a quart of incredible strawberries at Wilson Farm’s strawberry festival, and spooned them over shortcake, with home-made whipped cream. Perfect summer dessert. My own strawberries are doing pretty well too – and the nets covering the plants mean that we get to eat most of them, instead of them going to the birds.

Popcorn Cookies: Oh, Deb, I just don’t know how to quit you. This is from one of the Smitten Kitchen books and isn’t on her blog. It was one of her most straightforward recipes, and turned out the way it was supposed to, but I think I’d rather have popcorn and cookies, separately. (Or, you know, at the same time, but not in the same item.)

What are your favorite summer recipes?


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Blue clothes for the chairs

At a certain level of adulting, one acquires furniture that is (a) not from the curb or Craigslist, and (b) also not from IKEA, i.e., one purchases new furniture at a store. We have gone so far as to enter one of these non-IKEA furniture stores, but ultimately, we prefer to scrounge (sometimes, our furniture is secondhand AND from IKEA). It’s more frugal, less wasteful, and so far we’ve found things we’re really happy with.

One of my beloved (secondhand)(or possibly third- or fourth-hand, I don’t know) orange dining room chairs was finally pretty broken, though, which ended up inspiring a whole new dining room look: a secondhand IKEA bench, a secondhand IKEA table, and secondhand IKEA chairs. The chairs came with slipcovers (washable! yay!), but the slipcovers were, inexplicably, white.

I don’t understand white furniture, or most white clothing, for that matter. It’s going to get stained, and no matter how quick you are with your bottle of Shout, the stains are going to show. I think even Jolie Kerr (Ask A Clean Person) would agree that it’s easiest to avoid white, especially in places where it’s likely to encounter, say, tomato sauce.

Which brings me to my latest sewing project! These white slipcovers were also floor-length: fine for hotel banquet chairs, kind of weird for our house. So, I measured, cut, and hemmed them to cover the chair seats without going all the way to the floor. And then we dyed them blue. (We asked the toddler what color we should dye the slipcovers, and she said the chairs should have blue clothes. So.)

To the nearby art supply store for RIT dye, and voila!

Table and chairs

New-to-us pine table and blue slipcovered chairs. And it’s not a dining table without a book on it.



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Chef’s snack

My new favorite quick dinner is this:

Cous cous (made with butter, salt, and a little za’atar if you have it)
Feta cheese
Crispy kale and/or cucumber and tomatoes (if in season)
Cashews or pistachios
Fried egg

I was describing this to a friend, and she said anything with a fried egg on top is called a “chef’s snack.” I’m not sure how widespread that terminology is, but I’m borrowing it!


Mango juice pop on the deck

Other things I’ve made recently: tahini cookies from Jerusalem, applesauce from some slightly bruised Granny Smith apples, mango juice pops (in an ice cube tray with popsicle sticks; when this batch runs out I’m going to take another mom’s suggestion and freeze yogurt-fruit smoothie the same way. Voila, frozen breakfast on a stick!). Ben made cranberry-orange scones for Teacher Appreciation Week, and key lime pie is in the near future.

What are your favorite summer recipes?

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